Some kids have a dog. Others have a cat. Some have both. But Aspen and Leah B. of Lowell, Arkansas, have so many pets they can’t even count them all.
“Maybe about 1,000?” guesses 10-year-old Aspen.
“More like 100,” says 9-year-old Leah.
There is a giant Percheron draft horse, a tiny horse named Rascal, and a normal-sized horse who dances. There’s a water buffalo named Donald, a big hog named Harley, a camel named Kevin, ponies to ride. a pot-bellied pig, donkeys, cows, calves, chickens, lots and lots of goats!
You see, their grandma Connie has a petting zoo. Usually, she travels to fairs around the country with the animals, so kids can meet and learn about animals.
This year, because of covid-19, fairs were cancelled. So Connie set up the tents at home so kids could come visit the animals there.
Aspen and Leah are happy about that.
Some of the animals were born and raised on the farm and others have come from circus, fairs and rodeos all over the United States.
Blackie the horse was rescued from a circus in South Carolina because he was unhealthy. Now he’s gained weight and he sometimes does his little circus dance in the middle of his pen.
Leah and Aspen can ride the ponies whenever they want and get lots of rides on Kevin the camel in the front yard. They get to cuddle the baby goats and feed them with bottles.
Taking care of that many pets is a lot of work! Aspen and Leah are good workers, according to their grandma. “They do everything that needs doing,” she says. “They help with the milking, feed baby animals with bottles, wash the milker and do all the work that needs to be done. They’re little troopers.”
Then there are the chicken chores, which include collecting the eggs. “Why buy eggs when you can get them from the chickens?” Leah asks. Plus, the girls are the official chicken catchers. “Sometimes a chicken will escape when their cage is being cleaned,” grandma Connie says. “Then it’s the girls’ job to run after the chickens and catch them. They’re very fast, they’re good at it.”
Ashley is a 5th grader and Leah is a 4th grader at Lowell Elementary. With school starting, the girls plan to get up even earlier to take care of the animals.
“We’re hoping that we can do early chores and then do virtual school with grandma,” they say. “We’ll milk the cow a little earlier. She won’t mind.”
Aspen and Leah say taking care of the “zoo” is more fun that work, but Aspen says she used to be terrified of the barn.
“When I was little, I didn’t like the pens with the animals. I was afraid. But now I love it!”
Leah, on the other hand, would try to ride on the turkeys.
The girls learn a lot from their “pets.” Leah, for instance, tells us that goats only have bottom teeth, not top teeth. While she’s talking, one of them tries to eat her shoelaces.
“They eat everything!” she exclaims with a smile.